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M&A the Right Way, Part 3: Onboarding Success Tips: Page 2 of 4

Once you’ve found the perfect acquisition target, negotiated a deal, and signed a contract, here are some tips for ensuring the onboarding process goes smoothly and provides the expected ROI. By Colleen Frye
Reader ROI: 
ONBOARDING an acquired firm requires a project plan that addresses how personnel, tools, and customers will be organized.
THE BUYER should assign a team to oversee the plan, decide how to communicate it to employees/customers, and track progress.
DESIGN INTEGRATIONS AND CONSOLIDATIONS to minimize staff disruptions and maintain customer service levels.

Creating the Project Plan

Karl Bickmore, CEO of Cumming, Ga.-based Snap Tech IT, tracks and manages an onboarding project in his PSA system. The project is broken into three major categories—operations/service delivery, sales and marketing, and administration/back office—with a team leader responsible for developing a timeline for each category with detailed steps and executables.

“You've got to remember to have the right scope,” Bickmore says. “It's not just getting those employees onboard or getting them into your tools or moving their computers. It's also things like insurance [and] legal representation. How will the marketing change? Do you have access to the domain name? Do you have the social media accounts? If you don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, you'll miss pretty big things.”

Karl Bickmore

While there is no uniform timeline for onboarding success, Bickmore and others offer some general guidelines:

The first 30 days

The No. 1 consideration is getting employees paid, says Fowler. “When you're purchasing a company's assets, you're rehiring the employees, so your HR team needs to be ready.”

France notes that if the deal is an asset purchase transaction, which many are, the buyer acquires the seller’s checking account and can continue to run payroll from that. “There's no immediate pressure to switch to a different payroll system on day one,” he says.

Other HR considerations include medical and retirement plans, noncompete contracts, and miscellaneous paperwork typically required for a new hire.

France says this period is also focused on communicating internally about who’s staying, who’s going, and who’s moving to a different position, as well as deciding how to handle external communication. “If you're not changing the help desk, maybe you don't need to tell the customers just yet.”

Informing employees should happen early, says Bickmore, who does a company-wide notification in the first day or two, holding a town hall and meeting collectively with the entire team to share the transition plan and answer questions. “We take their input, and look for opportunities to improve.”

If a seller wants to tell employees ahead of the completed acquisition, Wiley wants to be there for the conversation. More preferable, he says, is breaking the news after the deal has closed, when “the seller meets with the company by himself for a short period of time then brings us in.” In the pre-COVID-19 world, he adds, his team would take new employees out to dinner or cocktails “just to get to know each other and try to bring that uncertainty down. That's really yielded the best results for us.”

In terms of systems integration, Aldridge transitions the financial systems within the first 30 days. “Generally that's a hard cut,” Wiley says.

About the Author

Colleen Frye's picture

Colleen Frye is ChannelPro's managing editor.

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